See-Through Sensors for Better Brain Implants

By Jeremy Hsu

Brain scientists first discovered how to use light to remotely control genetically-modified brain cells about a decade ago—a breakthrough that has enabled new scientific studies of depression, addiction and Parkinson’s disease. Now a new generation of transparent brain sensors could record brain cell responses without blocking the light’s access to the underlying brain tissue.

The brain control technique that seems to hearken from science fiction, called optogenetics, has traditionally relied on metallic sensors sitting on the surface of the brain to record the organ’s responses to the light stimulation. Some transparent versions of the brain implants have tried electrodes made of indium-tin oxide, a brittle material that is ill-suited to the idea of flexible brain sensors and has limited transparency for certain wavelengths of light. In a study published this week in  Nature Communications, a team of U.S. researchers working with a Thai colleague have shown how sensors made from graphene could work much better.  …[Read more]